Fishing the Valley

Looking for fish-filled waters? We’ve got ‘em. And we have the stats that let us know what’s swimming where so you can point your boat directly toward your desired catch.

For many years, TVA conducted a Spring Sport Fish Survey that let it assess the number and health of fish in each reservoir (the practice was discontinued in 2015). Each survey consisted of 12 passes of 30 minute electrofishing to temporarily stun the fish, and measured three species of black bass: largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, as well as black and white crappie. Read on for our last, best data—from our 2014 executive summary:

  • 10 reservoirs were sampled in 2014: 9 Main-stem Tennessee River reservoirs and 1 tributary reservoir.
  • A total of 9,911 black bass and 1,931 crappie were collected.
  • An overall catch rate of 61.1 fish per hour was achieved.
  • Numbers of black bass collected 3 pounds (1,139), 4 pounds (489), 5 pounds and over (174).
  • Pickwick Reservoir recorded the highest number of smallmouth bass (169).
  • Nickajack Reservoir recorded the highest percentage of harvestable largemouth bass (92.3%).
  • The average weight of all black bass collected 10 inches and longer was 1.8 pounds system wide. However, 4 reservoirs had mean weights of 2.0 lbs or better (Guntersville, Nickajack, Wheeler and Wilson).
  • The largest black bass was a largemouth that was collected at Sale Creek on Chickamauga reservoir (10 lbs).

Top reservoirs in each category (per total number of fish):

  • Pickwick Reservoir had the most smallmouth bass (169) and black bass (1,321).
  • Chickamauga Reservoir had the most spotted bass (32).
  • Douglas Reservoir had the most largemouth bass (1,229).
  • Fort Loudoun Reservoir had the most crappie (417).
  • Fort Loudoun Reservoir had the most white crappie (269).
  • Chickamauga Reservoir had the most black crappie (234).

Too Much Data?

Check out our cheat sheet, compiled by TVA and state agencies: Where the Fish Are.

TVA Is Passionate About Fishing, Too

TVA is engaged in many activities that benefit the fish and the anglers who pursue them. It would be hard to list them all, but they include monitoring the number and health of the fish; protecting water quality by stabilizing shorelines; helping farmers adopt best management practices; working with marinas to minimize boating-related pollution; improving oxygen flows in the water below TVA dams; managing reservoir levels to support the spring spawn; and more.

Are the Fish You Catch Safe to Eat?

That depends on the type and size of the fish, and the Ecological Health Rating of the reservoir it was swimming in. Access ecological reservoir ratings here.

TVA Fun
Get out and play on TVA lands and lakes—and let this collection of premier feature stories be your guide. We've got the scoop on the best fishing spots, paddling adventures, mountain biking thrills, premier hiking trails, birdwatching secrets and more. Share your own stories and photos on Instagram or Twitter using #TVAfun, or via Facebook using our #TVAFun tab.

Angler's Aquatic Plant ID

Developed by fishermen for fishermen, this plant-by-plant guide gives you all the information you need to understand when aquatic plants are most productive, where they grow and—most importantly—how to fish them. Click here for more on aquatic plants.

Bass Fisherman's Paradise

Lake Guntersville is consistently among the top 10 bass fishing lakes in the nation. What makes it so special? It's a mix of depth, water temperature and aquatic plants. Read more about why the lake is so good, and how TVA manages it for ongoing excellence. PLUS: One top pro shares his top fishing holes. Click here for more on fishing Lake Guntersville.

The Tug is the Drug

Young or old, wader or drifter, any angler will tell you that there is nothing like the adrenaline rush of “fish on.” The Tennessee Valley is home to many world-class trout fisheries, chief among them the South Holston River. Read more about that river—and 10 other top-notch hot spots in the in our ultimate guide to trout fishing the Tennessee Valley.